In 2007 I spent a year in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park as a SANParks People and Conservation volunteer intern based at Twee Riveiren.
It’s difficult to put the isolation of this spectacular place in words but the experience of living in the Kalahari has been one of the most profound of my life. My time in the Kalahari inspired the name of this blog – Pure Spaces. Spaces/places have such significance for me. The way they make me feel, the energy they give affects me emotionally and often spiritually. The space that is the Kalahari would definitely fall in the spiritual category. And my name means “pure”. So there you go…
What you quickly learn in a place like this is how important your small community is, you rely on each other for support, for companionship. You have to get along because you don’t have a choice. In my case the small community within the slightly bigger Park community were the residents of Blikkiesdorp (Tin Can Town). Our lodgings being converted shipping containers. Let’s pause for a moment to let that fact settle – a shipping container room in the Kalahari Desert!
So Blikkiesdorp, our little area of the staff accommodation of Twee Rivieren rest camp, was home to me, the intern, and two students studying Nature Conservation from Tshwane University. Occasionally the field guides would visit for a braai. But mostly it was just the three of us. A resident cheetah researcher and his wife adopted me as did the border policeman and his wife which meant a welcome break from Blikkies for a yummy meal or even the luxury of watching a little television.
Don’t get me wrong though, I grew very fond of Blikkies as the year progressed and it brought out some very creative “decorating” in me.
Here is where I need to introduce Kerryn, one of those students I mentioned earlier. A petite, feisty girl absolutely passionate about wildlife conservation. Kerryn and I clicked almost immediately. I say almost because she admits based on meeting my predecessor, she was determined NOT to like me. But it seems our common love of the band Smashing Pumpkins broke the ice! There is a good 10 year age gap between us, but I quickly began to admire her, particularly her determination to succeed in a (still to this day sadly) male dominated field of work. I am thrilled to say that we remain very close friends today even with the many miles that separate us.
It started with Kerryn, this kernel of an idea. By the time I had spent time getting to know Margie, the researcher’s wife, and Isabel, the policeman’s wife, as well women of the Khomani San community, I was overwhelmed by these extraordinary women I was meeting and the stories I was hearing. None of them would describe themselves as extraordinary. Most of their “voices” weren’t the voices of activists or feminists. They were just ordinary women blooming where they were planted – creating, nurturing, learning, growing, caring, loving in that very unique way women do.
I have to share these “voices”, I thought. Their stories deserve a place in the sun. So here I am all these years later beginning this journey… I finally seem to have found my courage, to have found my voice. This is the introduction to what I hope will be a series of posts over the coming months – the extraordinary voices of ordinary women.